A New, Central Focus for Hox Park Student Campus
Manchester based architecture and interior design practice 74 has completed a £2.7 million project to extend and remodel a Grade II listed, two-storey, Victorian brick building in a semi-rural location in Englefield Green, just outside Egham. The repurposed 453sq m building – Hox Haus – will serve as the central focus, clubhouse and social amenity for Hox Park student campus, newly created by developers Moorfield Group for students attending Royal Holloway, University of London.
The vision for Hox Haus was to encompass a number of important practical, social and unifying functions for its student users, including serving as a welcome point and gatehouse; parcel pick-up area; workspace for single study or group study and a downtime amenity with TV and games lounges, offering video-gaming booths, pool and table football. The building also serves as the campus hospitality hang-out, offering free soft drinks, tea points and vended snacks and has been flexibly designed for easy reconfiguration as a special event space, with moveable furniture and built-in-bar points able to house pop-up catering.
Architecturally, Hox Haus is a stylish, eye-catching and dynamic two-storey building that seeks to blend its original Victorian brickwork with two new glazed ‘lightbox’ interventions, creating a light-filled and largely transparent overall space that brings the outside in, referencing the building’s semi-rural location and offering a warm, comfortable and relaxing home-from-home for students. The two new interventions constitute a double height 44 sq m gatehouse to the building’s east elevation and a 35 sq m covered terrace section on the first storey, offering views over the whole campus. The terrace extension sits behind the parapet of an existing ground floor extension, making it subservient to the host building. Both new interventions are clad or semi-clad with bronze-coloured, 4.6m high, anodised aluminium fins. The fine, hard surfaces of the glazing and metal fins create a striking and elegant contrast to the rough textured and robust solidity of the original structure, adding refinement and reflectivity to the building as a whole.
“The brief for Hox Haus evolved gradually from the outset,” said David Holt, Founder and Director of 74. “Whilst we were initially brought in to look at the interiors of the student accommodation building – a speciality of the practice – we were then engaged to explore the potential of this unloved building and, by determining the need for an appropriate amenities provision for the student body, were able to rescue it from decay and provide a much needed focal point for this large-scale, semi-rural student accommodation development.”
The heritage of the building was a key driver for the interior approach and, unlike many architectural projects, the interior was in fact the key driver overall, so that the architecture is subservient to both the existing host building and the functions within. The overriding concept was to create a space that felt like a country retreat or clubhouse-with-a-twist. The new gatehouse provides a sense of arrival, whilst offering a separation between the functions of ‘reception’ and the need for a comfortable student social space monitored, but not overlooked, by staff.
While certain areas have key functions, such as the two group study areas or the TV and gaming lounges, others are multi-functional for students to make use of as they wish. The central zones are more obviously social, whilst quieter zone areas can be found along the edges of the two-storey space and within the first floor extension directly above the welcome area.
Another major design driver was the building’s rural aspect and the design therefore strives to make the most of views over the historic surrounding countryside, as well as bringing the outside in via natural references and creating a rich, textured, high-quality feel with a materials palette that includes marble-effect Hanex solid surfacing and brass detailing. Upholstery fabrics include textiles that nod to British rural traditions, such as checks and tweeds, browns, rust and moss greens, with bursts of berry brights and large-scale, nature inspired print wallpaper on opposing feature walls at the end of the ground floor.
David added: “It was important that the fabrics and colours created a warm and welcoming atmosphere. This is very much a walk-in-and-use-environment, offering an immediate appeal and a sense of welcome and comfort.”
Sadie Malim, Head of Special Projects and Legal at Moorfield Group commented: “74 excelled themselves on the design work for Hox Haus. The combination of their devoted attention to detail and design flair resulted in a scheme that sets the new standard for student accommodation in the UK. They understood easily what we were trying to achieve and were able to deliver a knock-out scheme, which encompasses necessary practical considerations, but also delivers the wow factor.”